Weekly Meanderings, 24 August 2019

I am excited to be with another New Testament MA cohort next week as we delve into studying the Context of the New Testament, with special focus on Romans 12-16.

A new kind of funeral: for a glacier.

OKJOKULL GLACIER, Iceland (AP) — It was a funeral for ice.

With poetry, moments of silence and political speeches about the urgent need to fight climate change, Icelandic officials, activists and others bade goodbye to what once was a glacier.

Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson pronounced the Okjokull glacier extinct about a decade ago. But on Sunday he brought a death certificate to the made-for-media memorial.

After about 100 people made a two-hour hike up a volcano, children installed a memorial plaque to the glacier, now called just “Ok,” minus the Icelandic word for glacier.

The glacier used to stretch six square miles (15 square kilometers), Sigurdsson said. Residents reminisced about drinking pure water thousands of years old from Ok.

“The symbolic death of a glacier is a warning to us, and we need action,” former Irish president Mary Robinson said.

This was Iceland’s first glacier to disappear. But Sigurdsson said all of the nation’s ice masses will be gone in 200 years.

“We see the consequences of the climate crisis,” Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said. “We have no time to lose.”

Jakobsdottir said she will make climate change a priority when Nordic leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Reykjavik on Tuesday.

“I know my grandchildren will ask me how this day was and why I didn’t do enough,” said Gunnhildur Hallgrimsdottir, 17.

Filthy littering. Eeewwwww

I agree with Richard E. Vatz:

The saddest and most profound transformation I have witnessed nationwide in my many decades in higher education is professors’ increasing fear of college students. This fear, borne of the increasing power of undergraduates’ influence on professors’ careers through invalid teaching evaluations and the profound ethic of expediency encouraging the coddling of students in the academy, cannot be overestimated.

Earlier this year I published a letter to the editor in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Student Evaluations Will Never Be Very Valid or Valuable.” I closed the piece with this short paragraph:

The fact is that every couple of years, scholars and others will come up with new “answers” on how to make student evaluations more valid and important, but they cannot do so. Use student evaluations for retention, promotion, and tenure, but use them tenuously only.

After much thought and reflection, I wish to amend that sentiment: I want to state more firmly that teaching evaluations cannot be made valid or valuable and strongly advise that they not be used more consequentially. They should be expunged for the purposes of retention, promotion, and tenure, and they should not be used for hiring purposes.

Student classroom evaluations of courses and professors should be eliminated. If they must be kept at all, they should be replaced by student accounts of measurable teacher behaviors on which students have the ability to report with some accuracy and validity. For example, does the professor show up for class regularly? Does he or she arrive on time? Does he or she grade consistently with his or her claims of criteria?

Questions like these might constitute valid data from students. Student evaluations of professorial teaching, currently used in just about every college and university, do not — at all.

Mainline churches and support of Trump:

Consider some of the numbers that political scientist Ryan Burge has been crunching from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), which surveys over 64,000 Americans every two years. Not only do 49% of ELCA respondents in the 2018 CCES identify as Republican(vs. 42% as Democrats), but even more approve of Donald Trump: 52% of those Lutherans, 35% strongly. When Burge drilled down to look at religious behavior, he found that ELCA support for Trump was strongest among those who attended church most often and weakest among those who show up just once or twice a year.

I don’t want to make too much of this. Pro-Trump numbers among ELCA respondents are dwarfed by those for evangelical denominations. For example, about half of Southern Baptists, Nazarenes, and Assemblies of God Pentecostals strongly approve of Trump’s performance, as do the majority of the ELCA’s Missouri Synod cousins. (Here too, it’s the most faithfully religious who are most likely to identify with the political right in the Age of Trump.) Meanwhile, other mainline groups skew darker blue: e.g., 55% of Episcopal and UCC respondents strongly disapprove of Trump, and historically black members of the National Council of Churches like respondents from the African Methodist Episcopal Church (83% strongly disapprove) and AME Zion (91%) are even more unified in their feelings about this president.

Alligators! Climbing fences. Can they unlock doors too?

Most people know alligators get just about everywhere in Florida, but now they’ve really leveled up.

Videos from last week show one swimming in the middle of a busy road — and another climbing a fence.

One of the intrusive reptiles was filmed on Thursday swimming in a giant puddle in the middle of an intersection during a downpour in St. Petersburg. Facebook user Roger Light Jr. caught it on video.

Another gator in Jacksonville took a cue from a viral “Storm Area 51” Facebook post. Someone caught this animal climbing the fence at the naval air station in the city, and, no, we didn’t know they could climb fences either.

Leftists have some explaining to do on this one. Will they?

I went back to Oberlin on a Friday in June for the first time in a year or so. Even retired professors like me have to return books to the library (eventually). Driving off the Ohio-10 freeway, down East Lorain Street, past the organic George Jones Farm—named for a beloved botany professor, not the great country-and-western singer—I saw the first of several yard signs supporting Gibson’s Bakery in its lawsuit against Oberlin College and its dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, who is also vice president of the college. The previous day, a Lorain County jury had awarded Gibson’s an astounding $33 million in punitive damages in addition to the $11.2 million it had already assigned to the family business for compensatory damages.

The jury found that Oberlin College and its dean of students had maliciously libeled the Gibson family as racists and deliberately damaged their business by suspending and later cancelling its century-long business relationship with the bakery—all while unofficially encouraging a student boycott. And the jury found that the college had intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the Gibsons themselves.

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